Eir owner Xavier Niel takes stake in biggest rival Vodafone

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Eir proprietor and French billionaire Xavier Niel has amazed the telecoms satellite by acquiring a 2.5pc involvement successful Vodafone – 1 of Europe’s biggest telecoms companies.

he move, made done Mr Niel’s Atlas Investissement subsidiary, has led to speculation implicit whether Mr Niel intends to effort again to bargain 1 of Vodafone’s European operations, oregon prosecute a greater stock of the wide group.

Earlier this year, an €11bn connection from Mr Niel’s Iliad subsidiary for Vodafone’s Italian concern was rejected.

If the billionaire were to summation his involvement successful Vodafone further, it could pb to involvement from Ireland’s telecoms regulator, Comreg.

Vodafone remains Ireland’s largest mobile relation and the second-largest fixed-line broadband seller.

While Atlas Investissement says it is abstracted from the Iliad Group, the ownership transportation would not spell unnoticed by contention regulators here.

A spokesperson for Comreg declined to comment.

In a statement, Atlas Investissement said Vodafone was an “attractive concern opportunity, arsenic per the prime of its assets portfolio and the coagulated underlying trends successful the planetary telecoms sector.”

The connection added that Atlas was supportive of Vodafone’s publically stated volition to prosecute consolidation opportunities, arsenic good arsenic its efforts successful infrastructure separation.

Atlas reported its involvement successful Vodafone, adjacent though it was nether the 3pc threshold for holdings to beryllium made public.

Mr Niel has telecoms investments successful 9 countries successful Europe, with astir 50m progressive subscribers and much than €10bn of revenue.

In Ireland, Mr Niel has been raising currency done a operation of dividends from Eir and selling immoderate of the company’s strategical assets.

This year, Eir struck a woody to merchantability 49.9pc of its fibre web to French concern steadfast InfraVia for €350m, pursuing the merchantability of its bulk involvement successful the Tetra exigency communications web for €76m. In 2020, it sold its operation infrastructure institution for €300m.

And portion its astir caller accounts amusement a diminution successful gross and profits, Mr Niel took €190m successful dividends from the company.

Italy, which has been 1 of the astir competitory markets successful Europe since Iliad’s introduction successful 2018, has been identified by Vodafone arsenic 1 of the countries that could payment from consolidation.

Mr Niel’s Iliad subsidiary has established a estimation arsenic a specializer successful low-cost communications that aggressively captures marketplace share.

In Ireland, Eir’s cut-price Gomo mobile relation raced to implicit 5pc marketplace stock wrong 2 years of launching, sparking a alteration successful marketplace offerings.

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